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Daniel G. Andújar’s Vision for the Future of Work

The artist’s new works at La Virreina, Barcelona, predict that the culture industry will never be automated

BY Max Andrews

Frieze magazine 5 Aug 2020

Main image: Daniel G. Andújar, Pyramid of Capitalism, 2019, oil on canvas, 1.9 × 1.6 m. Courtesy: the artist and Àngels Barcelona

In 1996, Daniel G. Andújar, an early proponent of net art, founded Technologies To The People: a mock corporation that marketed advanced technology to the underprivileged while spoofing the visual tics and ersatz transparency of digital brands. Largely focusing on projects from the last five years, the artist’s current exhibition at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge reveals that this double-edged concern with class hierarchies and utopian promises is still relevant today. Titled ‘The Third Estate’ – in reference to the medieval European term for common people – the show conflates past ideological struggles with the present and future of work, collective culture and propaganda.

In the first gallery, the phrase ‘this is not a worker’ has been written on the wall by a robotic plotter. Futurologists have predicted that almost half the jobs in high-wage economies are at risk of being replaced by automation and artificial intelligence within the next 20 years. Robot Scribit (2020) seems to ask – with reference to René Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (1929) – whether our anxiety about the future relates less to new technology per se than to our search for someone to blame for this very sense of foreboding. Karl Marx looms large: The Communist Manifesto (2019) is a disconcerting video simulation of the philosopher’s head as he reads his revolutionary 1848 analysis of capitalist modes of production like a silken-voiced, radical-policymaking Alexa.

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Short Cuts ? Anschlüsse an den Körper

 

 

Frieze Issue 37 November-December 1997

DASA, Dortmund, Germany

DASA, or the Deutsche Arbeitsschutzausstellung (The German Health and Safety at Work Exhibition) to give it its full title, is a museum in which you can put on a pair of hygienically padded headphones and take a guided tour of the history of work. Behind this is the serious point that working people – whether typing at computers or tapping blast furnaces – are exposed to danger. Ear muffs, goggles and back exercises were all invented to protect the body during the production process. If the mind responsible for that body is to understand how vulnerable it is and how it works, clear images are needed. ‘Short Cuts – Anschlüsse an den Körper. Ein Cross-Over durch Kunst, Wissenschaft und Körperbilder’ (Short Cuts: connections to the body. A criss-cross tour of art, science and images of the body) is the wordy title of an exhibition that provides just that. The 17 artists involved use photography, video, installation and interactive computers. Curators Iris Dressler (art historian) and Hans D. Christ (artist) state that in organising the show they were interested in ‘surfaces’ and not in ‘physical feelings’.

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